This recently unearthed
obscurity gives new meaning to the term minimal: it features just one
character (actor Robert Strauss) on an island together with countless imaginary
(hence unseen) companions. Not an entirely successful film, but definitely a
THE NOAH was lensed in 1968, briefly distributed in 1974 and then “lost”
for over three decades, at least until a restored version was released on DVD by
Pathfinder Home Entertainment in 2006. It was the first and only feature
directed by Daniel Bourla, a Greek-born filmmaker who helmed commercials in the
United States during the early fifties and returned to his native Greece during
the McCarthy era.
As for the late Robert Strauss, a veteran character
actor who graced classics like THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and THE BRIDGE ON THE
RIVER QWAI, and was nominated for a 1953 Academy Award for his turn in STALAG
17, THE NOAH was to be his final feature. The supporting cast included Geoffrey
Holder, the deep-voiced Jamaican best known for the many 7-Up commercials he
headlined during the eighties, and Sally Kirkland, a longtime B-movie starlet.
Both are identifiable by voice only, as Strauss is the only visible personage.
Other voices heard include those of James Keach, Jack Schneider and Daniel
Bourla’s son David, himself a future writer-director.
A man in military garb washes up on a deserted island somewhere in the
Pacific Ocean. It quickly becomes clear that the place is a leftover Japanese
stronghold from WWII, with abandoned shacks and discarded weaponry scattered
everywhere. The man, who dubs himself Noah (after the guy with the ark),
commandeers a shack and settles into an apparently carefree existence. The
thought of rescue never seems to cross his mind, and we gradually learn why:
much of the world has been destroyed by nuclear war and Noah is among the very
After a while Noah begins to grow lonely and so conjures an imaginary
companion, a friendly Jamaican soldier named Friday, who quickly becomes the
“best friend” Noah “ever had”. But Friday longs for a companion of his own, so
Noah creates Friday-Anne, an extremely chatty young woman intent on seducing
Friday. Noah, laboring under strict military-induced Puritanism, blows a gasket
when he overhears Friday and his mate having sex. He runs off to the island’s
farther reaches and becomes deluged with ever more imaginary personages.
Growing increasingly powermad, Noah teaches a school, leads an army, and even,
Moses-like, draws up a set of commandments for his subordinates to follow. And
still Noah descends ever further into madness, to the point where his delusions
become increasingly fragmented and incoherent, reduced to snippets of music,
disembodied voices and political speeches. The island scenery, meanwhile, stays
forever the same: desolate and deserted.
Director Daniel Bourla has created something quite unique with this
unrelenting portrayal of total isolation. Superbly lensed in stark black and
white, the film is a visual stunner, but also utilizes sound in strikingly
innovative fashion. The protagonist’s hallucinatory companions and the
community he creates are ingeniously depicted via voice-over dialogue and
occasional POV shots; all we ever see, however, is the refuse-laden
island, with a single man upon it succumbing to total insanity. Bourla
ultimately fails to sustain this dazzling vision through to the end (the film
concludes with a fizzle), but his achievement is nonetheless unprecedented.
The performance of Robert Strauss is what holds THE NOAH together. Strauss
is in literally every scene, and is furthermore the only flesh and blood
character, making for a mighty demanding role. He’s more than up to the
challenge, though, closing out his career in impressive fashion. Let’s hope
that, with the three-decades-overdue release of Pathfinder’s DVD, this
long-neglected classic will finally attain the status it deserves.
Pathfinder Home Entertainment
Director: Daniel Bourla
Producer: Louis De Rochemont III
Screenplay: Daniel Bourla
Cinematography: Jerry Kalogeratos
Editing: Angelo Ross
Cast: Robert Strauss, Sally Kirkland, Geoffrey Holder, Jim Blackmore, Herbert
Hartig, Jack Schneider, James Keach, Richard Thomkins, David Bourla